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Day for fighting.

Entirely unconscious of the impending danger, not a cloud appearing on our military horizon, the morning of Thursday, the 9th of June, 1864, found us setting about our usual avocations, when suddenly the camp was aroused by the advent of a courier with the startling news that a heavy body of cavalry, accompanied by artillery, was rapidly approaching by the Jerusalem [7] Road, and only then a few miles distant. The camp was immediately in commotion, and by the orders of our commandant, Colonel Fletcher H. Archer, the men quickly fell into their places. As they were forming, Captain Jas. E. Wolfe handed me a list of the members of my company who were absent, and directed me to proceed with all possible expedition into the town and summons them to report at once to the front. As I left the camp on my mission there was an ominous note in the beating of the long roll sounding in my ears, which told me that earnest work was on hand. The crisis had arrived, and our mettle was to be put to the crucial test.

Proceeding into the town by the shortest route known through the fields and woods, I passed up the Delectable Heights, where I met Mr. Charles F. Collier, Mr. Robert A. Martin and Mr. James Boisseau returning to the camp, to whom I announced the news. I passed on down Sycamore Street. The news had reached the city ahead of me; the bells had just ceased ringing the tocsin of alarm and the city was being thoroughly aroused, but as we had often been deceived by false reports, some were disposed to treat the matter lightly, and while some believed and hastened to put their armor on, others believed not. It was then about eleven o'clock.

Among the first I summoned was Mr. Charles Campbell, well known as the author of the History of Virginia. He was at that time principal of the Anderson Seminary, on Washington Street. Mr. Campbell was an ardent patriot, and although exempt by reason of age and profession from military duty, at the first news of Butler's landing he shouldered his musket with the alacrity of youth and fell into ranks with those who were rushing to the defence of the city.

For several weeks he and his youthful assistant, Mr. Branch T. Archer (late of Richmond), had done faithful duty on the lines. In common with many others, they had returned to their professional duties, ready to be called upon at a moment's notice. School was in session, and as I approached the house, I heard the sound of busy voices within, and when the next moment I stood at the open door, gun in hand, reciting the news, every boy and girl was hushed into silence as they craned their necks [8] to hear what was being said about the war. After seeing others whose names I do not now remember, and getting some refreshments, I started back to camp, feeling assured that every man was needed there.

Among those I noticed already on their way out was Mr. William C. Bannister, whom I remember well, as on that fateful day, erect as a Mohawk chief, with rifle in hand and blanket slung across his shoulders, he seemed the personification of the Southern cause. In company with (I think) Mr. George B. Jones, he marched steadily out to the fray. Mr. Bannister was full of patriot fire, and no man fought or fell that day whose devotion to the Confederate cause was more conspicuously displayed than his.

On the way I met two Confederate soldiers. From them I derived the information that an attack already had been made and repulsed. I asked them why they didn't stay to help; they gave me as a reason that it was not their company that was engaged. I suspected that, being old veterans and probably foreseeing the result, the real reason was they had no stomach for the fight.

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June 9th, 1864 AD (1)
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